December 8, 2011

An island feeling

During the days in Stone Town, Zanzibar, I kept having the unusual feeling of being reminded of Cuba.  Unusual, in that I've never actually been to Cuba and have no recollections to be reminded of.  Yet somehow the comparison kept surfacing in my mind as I wound through narrow streets, hiding from the sun.  Zanzibar most certainly has an island feeling to it.  The feeling of being in a small town, surrounded by water and removed from mainland interference.  And it has a tropical feeling: sticky air and HEAT from day through night.  But it doesn't have the aloha mellow of Hawaii or the quaintness of the Mediterranean isles.  Like Italy or Greece, it has whitewashed buildings and narrow winding alleyways, but there is a gritty feeling about it, not as sanitized.  

Stone Town alleyways

Residential plaza

And I suppose that's my projected imagination of Cuba.  Perhaps one day I'll see for myself.  Wandering through Stone Town can be accomplished in half a day, preferably not the middle half while the sun is directly above.  That way there is refuge in the shade of the maze-like streets.  Admiring the doors and the Arabic influenced architecture of engraved and embossed balconies and turrets.  

View of the sea from balcony of the Old Distillery

Sultan's home-turned-restaurant.  Top Tower

I don't know if Zanzibar recognizes and official siesta, but the people of Stone Town obviously recognize the need to snooze through the least bearably hot hours of the day.


As an alternative to wandering the shady streets, you can also walk along the water-front and receive a gentle sea breeze.  Past the shipping harbor, past houses and yards where men sand lumber to build new dhow boats.  

Moderately decaying docks

There aren't many tourist attractions in Stone Town, but I saw a fish market listed on the map, at the north-most end of town and decided to wander over.  The market had indoor and outdoor tables, all stocked with piles of silvery sardines, still glistening from the water.  But the greater part of the action and bustle was actually behind the market, around the corner, at the shipping area.  Here men and women wade into the water to greet the fishing boats and claim their haul.  Bicyclists with wicker baskets wait on the shore to transport the goods and use scraps of cardboard to chase away the birds that swoop down and slurp up their share of seafood when no one's looking.

Fish market merchandise

This was my favorite place- hanging around by the docks- which people seemed to find a bit odd but then turned back to their business and let me loiter.  Because loitering can be far more interesting than museum-hopping, if you're in the right place.  

1 comment:

  1. Have you left Kenya now? Are you doing a final blog?